Tom Deluca: How Does He Do It?

On a recent Saturday night students started to pile into Collegiate’s Oates Theater to witness something bordering on unbelievable. The famous Tom Deluca was about to hypnotize a group of students and showcase his hypnotic powers for the live audience.This was my second time seeing Deluca perform, and his performance was just as amazing as the first time. The show begins with selecting the hypnosis subjects. He chose the volunteers with the craziest outfits and flashiest signs. Then the mics were turned off, and Deluca spoke to the volunteers in a voice just out of earshot of the silent audience. I then saw my hypnotized classmates look up with distant gazes in their eyes.


Defending the apples. Photo credit: Grant Willard.

Hypnosis is described by Encyclopedia Britannica as, “resembling sleep only superficially and marked by a functioning of the individual at a level of awareness other than the ordinary conscious state.” While many question the legitimacy of hypnosis, the show I witnessed by Tom Deluca has convinced me of its existence. A major misconception of hypnosis is that it is mind control, but it is actually a trance state that cannot be achieved unwillingly. As explained by HowStuffWorks, it is “characterized by extreme suggestibility, relaxation and heightened imagination.”

For those who missed the show, Deluca had the volunteers on stage following his every suggestion. At first he told them simple things, having them smell the greatest smell of their life or laugh at the funniest joke ever. Each volunteer had a genuine reaction to what he told them was happening. Then he started creating more complex spectacles. He had Max Vaughan (‘16) defending the lives of two apples, which he named Craig and Dylan, claiming they had feelings. He also convinced Mait Innes (‘16) that the sponge in front of him weighed 500 pounds, rendering him unable to lift it. Audience member Matt Colletti (16’) says, “The experience was, in a sense, riveting. I didn’t know where I was, and I wasn’t even a participant. I was definitely satisfied, and my breath was certainly taken away.”


“Shake It Off” dancing. Photo credit: Grant Willard.

So what happened to the Collegiate students that Saturday night? Hypnotized student Austin Jupe (‘17) described it as “Out of body and out of mind.” Henry Crowell (‘16) remembers it was “kinda’ like the feeling you get right before you fall asleep.” The mysterious magic Deluca performed out of our earshot had put our Collegiate peers into that state of “extreme suggestibility”. Vaughan said, “The last thing I remember was imagining myself going down a staircase.” None of the hypnotized students were asleep; they just believed Deluca’s instructions were very important. Jimmy Melnick (‘16) recalls, “Everything he said, I just really wanted to do.”

We were lucky to have Deluca here at Collegiate, as he has become a highly requested act around the nation. He was voted the National College Entertainer of The Year four times and makes frequent appearances at UVA and Virginia Tech. He comes to Collegiate every other year, so each student has the opportunity to see him twice. If you missed him on Saturday, February 6, I highly recommend checking him out in a 2018.

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